Rocks of Ages

There was a place in the huge granite rocks that formed the New England coast were a favorite place of mine. I was fortunate enough to live right on Long Island Sound, the water’s edge a mere 35 feet from the house. We sat 30 feet above the water as well, with a stone step that circled down to the little splotch of sand that was our own beach. I would fall asleep each night listening to the moods of the Sound, the sweeping beam of Greens Ledge Lighthouse washing across my walls with a steady and tenacious pace. In the daylight I could sit at my desk and stare out at the water, seeing the reflections turn into light faeries that danced endlessly across the swells.

Out on the rocks I had my secret spot above the shore. I was protected by speckled granite on three sides, the opening facing the water. It was an easy place not to see as it was passed by. Natural camouflage helped me keep my place secret and used it when I wanted to be alone. Alone to think or sneak one of my mother’s Kent cigarettes –or more. I had little shelves I made from an old create, and in it I kept the necessities of a young lone wolf: some candies and cupcakes, candles, strike anywhere matches, a small compass and a folding pocket knife. A tiny Japanese transistor radio and a boy scout flashlight rounded out my collection. Some of these items were consistently refreshed for my consistently eating the potable possessions.

Sitting in my fort, I would look out on the water and envision all manner of ships and invented adventures that used them as props. I was heroic as a man of the Navy, vicious as a pirate, and cunning as the seeker who finds the treasures of the pirates. But I also had thoughts about the others who looked out at the great expanse of waves, perhaps from within the very confines of my secret fort. I thought of the French that dotted the area, spilling down from Quebec and Ontario, the various Native American tribes whose people claimed the area before the white man came. I thought about smugglers and I thought about the widows who would scan the horizon, sometimes for years, waiting for their man to return from the sea. My fantasies spurred me to learn more about the history of Connecticut and surrounding states, the events made interesting as a muse for my imaginings.

In the winters, when snow improbably covered the lush evergreen and packed against the hardwoods, and sometimes floated like an ice flow on the Sound in addition to the land. The waves would make short work of the buildup, quickly turning it to slush and then more water within minutes of its creation. Ice would form plastic appearing caps where the spray from the waves broken on the rocks would fly, giving a now unfamiliar stomping ground an artificial look. The buildup of ground snow could reach a foot or more, but the even handedness of the ocean temperature would erase the snows more quickly here that it would just a short mile inland. But it came often enough to make mental Currier and Ives snapshots with regularity. But for me, the greatest beauty and feature of my home was the water. It was timeless and familiar, although it was rarely predictable or stereotypical.

I was engaging again in daydreaming of my fantasy home. Simply put, a Cannery Row building with wide open spaces inside, which would support my lifestyle and living quarters simultaneously. Outside the wide sliding doors facing the water would be a view of the endless ocean, its dampness and salty air tinted lightly with the decomposition of organisms whose purpose was completed. It would hear the water as it embraced and fondled the pilings upon which I rested, feeling the sway when the water was fierce and angry. Calm or not, I would fall asleep to the metronome whitenoise of the swells, lapping or smashing the coast. One time I lived in a warehouse that was right on the Willamette River in Portland, backed up against the water on one side, street on the other. Except that in winter it was not well insulated and the building was a festival of drafts, but I always liked the layout the best, because the rooms were defined by the placement of the furniture. In my head, I do serious structural work and refinishing of the building, and then move it to a harbor on the ocean.

The rocks in front of my home in Darien Connecticut, particularly Butler’s Island, have primed me for an entire lifetime of daydream imagery and ideas. It helped give me the affinity for life on a salt water coast, and formed the basis for many of ideas for living. Always managing to involve the sea, my daydreams invariably carry me back to those rocks on the shore. I relax against the rock, naturally form fit for comfort, light a purloined cigarette and then stare out at the water where the fish all live and the faeries play in the glinting instants of brilliance.